Yes, it’s definitely that time of year again, at least in the UK.
Yesterday, we had Stephen Hunt complaining about anti-speculative fiction bias on The Culture Show and today we have M. John Harrison complaining about an admittedly stupid Guardian article introducing the twelve supposedly best new literary novelists selected on behalf of – you guessed it – The Culture Show. And just in case you missed that M. John Harrison really disagrees with that Guardian article (and presumably The Culture Show), he also has a follow-up post.
I actually agree with Harrison’s point, because that Guardian article truly is eyerollingly stupid. While I read through the whole thing, I kept thinking, “Oh my, the Guardian just discovered postmodernism. And experimental fiction. And magical realism. And the existence of calculatedly literary fiction in general. So what was the frontpage headline then? Kennedy shot? Vietnam War ends?”
And for that matter, why is the Guardian considered a high quality paper again? Sure, it is better than Rupert Murdoch’s output, not that that’s much of a trick. But considering how often the Guardian pisses me of, I wonder why I keep bothering?
However, M. John Harrison can’t seem to make his point without getting in a sly dig at “no-fuck vampire romances” and “the high-performing post-Austen industry”. Because the proper response to insults to one’s own genre (whether that genre is literary fiction or speculative fiction or something else altogether) is insulting some other genre. Bonus points if you manage to insult a genre dominated by women writers (as both paranormal romances and Austen pastiches and sequels are), because those have a lower prestige in general.
What is more, it seems as if Mr. Harrison hasn’t actually read all that many vampire romances, because there are hardly any that don’t feature any sex whatsoever. Even Twilight has sex (with the bedroom door closed) in Breaking Dawn.
PS: After having seen it painted as the speculative fiction hating bête noir two days in a row, I now really want to watch The Culture Show. Because I have a weakness for snooty culture programs.